Rock Island looking to restore prairie, neighbors say ‘cut the grass’

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ROCK ISLAND – Some Rock Island parks have a new look. The Parks and Recreation Department announced they are starting a naturalization program. Instead of keeping the grass in the parks manicured, they’ll be letting it grow. The department says it’s good for the budget and the environment. 

     Some of the grass at Longview Park hasn’t been cut for two months. But the city isn’t being lazy. They’re letting part of the parks return back to their natural state. It’s a change you can see and hear. 

     “You’ll notice a lot more sounds. A lot more insects. A lot more butterflies and birds flying around than you normally would. You can go and stand next to one of the areas and just hear the difference,” says Chief Horticulturist Mark Demarlie.  

     The City of Rock Island’s chief horticulturist says letting the grass grow will save the department money and man power. 

     “Then also fuel and the environmental impact that may have. The erosion damage it’s caused from driving up and down those hills,” says Demarlie. 

And it will restore the land.

“After a couple years you’ll see more of the flowers, more of the actual native grasses that were meant to be there,” he says. 

But not everyone is happy about it. 

“Cut the grass so everything can be nice again and pretty,” says neighbor Otis Harris. 

     Otis Harris has lived across from Longview for seven years. He’s not happy his front-porch view has turned into a prairie. 

     “It’s hard for us to sit out here in the afternoon when we get off of work or whatever be wanting to take it easy because of the gnats,” says Harris. “But if they cut the grass we don’t have to worry about all the gnats and everything.”

     Demarlie says other parkgoers have complained about the long grass too. But he’s hoping they’ll change their mind. Because there’s a lot they can learn from watching the grass grow.

     “Hopefully, the education part of it is we can utilize these places as a classroom, as an outside classroom,” he says. 

     Rock Island now says they want to add a naturalization patch to Sunset Park. They say it will add another ecosystem to an already diverse park along the river.

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